Federal Judge Orders Ohio to Recognize Gay Couple's Marriage

James Obergefell and John Arthur will be listed as married on Arthur's death certificate, and can be buried beside one another when Arthur succumbs to ALS.

BY Sunnivie Brydum

July 22 2013 6:32 PM ET

A federal judge ordered Ohio state officials Monday to recognize a gay couple's marriage performed in Maryland last week, clearing the way for the men to be listed as married on the terminally ill husband's death certificate, according to Chris Geidner at BuzzFeed

"The end result here and now is that the local Ohio Registrar of death certificates is hereby ORDERED not to accept for recording a death certificate for John Arthur that does not record Mr. Arthur’s status at death as 'married' and James Obergefell as his ‘surviving spouse,'" wrote U.S. District Magistrate Timothy Black Monday, according to the ruling published at BuzzFeed

Arthur and Obergefell have been together for more than 20 years, and on July 11, the Cincinnati-based couple took a specially equipped medical jet to marry on the tarmac of Baltimore-Washington International Airport. Ohio still bans same-sex marriage, but the couple couldn't wait for the law to change, because Arthur suffers from advanced amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a fatal neurological disease. Arthur was diagnosed with ALS 26 months ago, and is "certain to die soon," according to the judge's ruling declaring the couple legally wed. 

The couple filed suit against Ohio Gov. John Kasich in his official capacity Friday, also naming Ohio attorney general Mike Dewine and the Cincinnati doctor responsible for approving death certificates as defendants, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. The judge's ruling will allow the couple to be buried alongside one another on Arthur's family plot, since Arthur's grandfather legally stipulated that only immediate family and their spouses can be buried on the family plot at Spring Grove Cemetery. 

"We've been beside each other for 20 years," Obergefell testified in court today, according to the Enquirer. "We deserve to be beside each other in perpetuity."

"This is not a complicated case," wrote Black in his decision. "…Ohio law has historically and unambiguously provided that the validity of the marriage is determined by whether it complies with the law of the jurisdiction where it was celebrated."

Black's ruling Monday also indicated that Ohio's ban on marriage equality, approved by voters in 2004, "likely violate[s] the U.S. Constitution… by treating lawful same-sex marriages differently than it treats lawful opposite sex marriages." However, Black's ruling made clear that his decision applies only to Obergefell and Arthur, and not all Ohio couples legally married in states that embrace marriage equality.

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